China Southern Airlines says executive vice-president removed over bribery probe

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 October, 2015, 12:31am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 October, 2015, 12:32am

China Southern Airlines said on Friday evening that its executive vice-president Liu Qian had been removed from his position while a corruption investigation against him is under way, after the South China Morning Post reported on Monday that Liu had been taken away. 
"A case on file for investigation against Liu Qian [has] been placed due to the suspicion of bribery crime. According to the relevant laws and regulation and the articles of association of the company, all eleven directors of the board considered and unanimously approved that Liu Qian be removed as the executive vice president of the company. The above matter does not affect the ordinary operation of the company," China Southern said in a notice to the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Liu, who was overseeing operations, is the fifth senior executive to fall at China's largest airline since a graft probe began late last year. In January the company announced four senior executives – chief financial officer Xu Jiebo and deputy managers Chen Gang, Zhou Yuehai and Tian Xiaodong – were removed and detained for “job-related crimes”, a euphemism for corruption.

Liu, 52, a veteran pilot, joined the airline in 2004 from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) according to China Southern’s website. He received remuneration of 1.397 million yuan last year according to the company’s annual report, making him the highest-paid manager. 

In April, Liu received a “serious warning” from the party and an administrative sanction for playing golf on public funds, while Zhang Zhong and Lin Qingtong, two managers at China Southern's Zhuhai Flight Training Centre, were also warned and made to return the funds, according to a notice on the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI). But it is understood Liu’s job had not been affected by the warning and he had been performing his role since April. 

China’s booming aviation industry is among the latest targets of Communist Party graft busters who have been examining state-owned enterprises and government bodies across the mainland. The probe into the airline sector started with a visit to China Southern by the CCDI.

CAAC, Air China and China Eastern Airlines were among copmpanies visited by the CCDI in the latest round of inspections that started in July. At least three CAAC officials have since been taken away on suspicion of corruption according to mainland media.

Beijing Capital Airport said in a notice to the Hong Kong stock exchange on September 17 that its general manager, Shi Boli, had resigned from his post and all directorships at the company, after media reports emerged that Shi, a former CAAC official, had also been taken away for investigation.